Seattle's Attraction: Poaching Microsoft Talent?

Susan Hall

When I spoke with Alice Hill, managing director of Dice.com, in June about regional skill shortages, she mentioned the increasingly hot job market in Seattle, which she attributed to the cloud computing efforts of Amazon and Microsoft:

The work that Amazon and Microsoft have done to establish themselves as players in the cloud space, I think that then started to breed a lot of smaller startups and other companies all around that area. They're taking advantage of the talent pool of people who either came up to work for Amazon or Microsoft and now have more options.

However, venture capitalist Greg Gottesman and Seattle entrepreneur Dave Schappell were a bit more blunt in their explanation for the rise of fast-growing engineering centers there by the likes of Facebook, Google, HP, Zynga and Salesforce.com. GeekWire quotes Madrona Venture Group's Gottesman at a panel discussion this week, saying:

They think Microsoft is weak, and they feel that they can steal technical talent.

Schappell pointed to Sept. 15 as a date each year when there's a big exodus from Microsoft. It's the date when Microsoft will launch Internet Explorer 9, so that engineering team will be moving on to something else, internally or elsewhere.


Schappell, a former Amazon.com employee now with TeachStreet, also conceded that startups can't compete with the behemoths on salary.

[The big players] are totally insane. They are throwing out $150,000 to $200,000 salaries and $500,000 (restricted stock units) that will vest over three or four years. The only people you are going to attract at a startup are people who want to build something great.


If you want to go work on one element of a shopping cart check-out pipeline, go work for Amazon. If you want your brain to go numb, go work for Microsoft. The way we recruit is not by recruiting the same people, for better or for worse ... I am telling you that's true, though. Startups do not compete, and we can't compete hiring those same people.

In a previous post, I quoted Shannon Callahan, talent partner for venture capitalists Andreessen-Horowitz, saying they shouldn't try:

In order for startups to truly compete, they have to take the compensation talks off the table. They can't compete with the offers which are being thrown around. They have to take the conversation to the vision of what they are building, the contribution a person can make at that size company. They have to feed a person's desire to build the next coolest company, rather than be a part of the current coolest company.

Meanwhile, GeekWire's John Cook is fascinated with Google's expansion to Seattle suburb Bothell, which the company apparently doesn't want to talk about. Meanwhile, Facebook, which set up shop in Seattle last year, is looking for space to expand by up to 200 workers.

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